Newspaper columnists respond to the eclipse

_81787003_proba-2_view_of_europe_s_solar_eclipsePolly Toynbee:

In the summer of 1999, there were clear blue skies and a warm August day for the eclipse, which Tony Blair had ensured was happening at the family friendly time of 11am. In 2015, the eclipse was hidden behind thick clouds, only visible to rich bankers circling London in their private jets, buried away at 9.30 in the morning, when millions of workers would be slaving away for their bosses, unable to see it, even if David Cameron hadn’t arranged for there to be cloudy skies. There couldn’t be a more damning indictment of Coalition Britain.

Dan Hodges:

…and as the Moon slowly covered the Sun, pitching the entire country into darkness, what did Ed Miliband say? Nothing. The whole country was being denied the warmth and light of the Sun but he couldn’t bring himself to even issue a press-release castigating the Moon for its role in making this happen. Labour used to be a party of light, now they stand for nothing more than darkness.

Richard Littlejohn:

I’ll tell you what eclipse we should be having – eclipse round the ear from a neighbourhood bobby. That’d sort out the problems of the country. (Note to subs: please pad this out as if I was there, because there wasn’t an eclipse here in Florida)

Peter Hitchens:

For hundreds of years, the people of these islands knew just how to deal with eclipses. A young (and obviously virginal in those days before sex education corrupted our youth) member of the village would be sacrificed, the Moon would be appeased and the Sun would be returned to us with none of the ridiculous fuss we see nowadays. But now we must all stand around and watch this eclipse, and if you try to set up just a small sacrifice of innocent children (assuming you can find any in this Godforsaken country) then the PC Police will descend on you and throw you in prison. Meanwhile, the real criminals – those who would see what remains of our degraded civilization be eaten by angry and unappeased sky gods – go unpunished. That’s Britain today for you.

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Question Time needs a wider variety of panellists

BBC_Question_TimeBecause I’m a masochist, I watched Question Time last night, where one of the panellists was a representative of the Taxpayers’ Alliance. Contrary to the image they present, the TPA isn’t a membership-based grassroots organisation, but a privately funded lobbying group that doesn’t represent anyone but its donors – what’s normally known as an ‘astroturf‘ group. However, like other lobbying groups and corporate shills that pretend to be ‘think tanks’ (the ones with ‘Institute’ in their names), it often gets invited to go on Question Time and other news programmes as though it has some kind of impartiality and objectivity, rather than being something established to campaign for a specific purpose.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with campaigning for something, even if that is to ensure that addressing the concerns of the wealthy and privileged is even more over-represented in political debate, but why aren’t other campaigning groups given a seat on the Question Time panel? I can’t recall anyone from organisations like Friends of the Earth or Amnesty – groups with actual memberships, often larger than any of the political parties – ever sitting on the panel, while the TPA and their ilk regularly get a seat there.

Alternatively, if the producers of Question Time are actually incapable of doing any sort of research into the people they invite and accept the spin that these people are some kind of impartial experts, why not invite some genuine experts on the programme? There are hundreds of academic experts in politics and public policy and at least some of them are safe to put on television before a general audience. Naturally, I’d suggest someone like David Sanders from Essex, but other academics and academic disciplines are available. I have been told by reliable sources that there are historians with opinions out there who aren’t called ‘David Starkey’.

They can still have the astroturf lobbyists on there occasionally if they want to, but surely it wouldn’t be too hard to find a wider range of panellists that might actually allow some facts to be interjected into the discussion occasionally?

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Not Watching This Weekend: The Remake

"I have a very particular set of broadcasting requirements."

“I have a very particular set of broadcasting requirements.”

It has come to our attention that barely weeks after its official release, one of the earliest projects of Not Watching This Weekend Studios is now being remade by a rival fantasy production studio. This gang of young upstarts, apparently known as The Conservative Party have announced plans to remake Not Watching This Weekend’s classic British comedy The Empty Chair.

Rumours also persist that this remake will change the script of the original debate, and rather than featuring a Prime Minister battling his way across a gridlocked London to avoid an empty chair, this version will instead feature a Prime Minister and his team who are so poor at negotiating that he manages to get himself into a situation where he rules himself out of any debates, and then ends up looking flabbergasted when they go on without him. (There’s talk that this will then lead up to a comic twist where the PM who can’t negotiate with TV companies will insist that he has the ability to renegotiate the entire country’s relationship with the European Union, but we think that would be straining credibility even for the Carry On Voting-esque farce this version appears to be becoming)

Some hopes for a good film were raised with news that an Old Etonian had been cast as the lead, but it appears that Damian Lewis, Dominic West, Tom Hiddleston and Eddie Redmayne were all unavoidably detained elsewhere when the casting director called, so the lead role will instead be played by one of the current leads of BBC Two’s Wednesday lunchtime comedy-drama Politishout! Whoever this guy is, the next David Tennant he most certainly is not.

Unfortunately, after consulting with our lawyers, it turns out that we do not have the power to prevent this remake taking place, but they do assure us that it will likely only have a short run in cinemas before disappearing. They also believe that the very existence of it – and its near inevitable box office failure – will prevent any future remakes from taking place, because surely no one would want to recreate a bomb like this.

We look forward to not watching David Cameron in his Empty Chair, and then continue to not see him for many years to come.

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Opening Sentence From A Parallel Universe Of The Day

This coveted award is won by the Spectator, who obviously weren’t paying attention to the alternative-Earth origins of the sub-editor who thought the beginning of this article made any kind of sense in our world:

Had the public been asked, before Monday morning, to identify two MPs who stood for honesty and decency, the names Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind would have been prominent among their replies.

Unfortunately, we are not yet able to offer guided tours to the world where Jack Straw stands for ‘honesty and decency’, but we’re assured it’s a very interesting place.

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Not Watching This Weekend: Helmer

"an exclaimation of annoyance, exasperation, rage or other negative factor or to expel anger, disgust, disappointment"

“an exclaimation of annoyance, exasperation, rage or other negative factor or to expel anger, disgust, disappointment”

The Pitch: It’s the early days of Twitter, and someone’s had an idea for a parody account. Surely, nothing could be more amusing than a right-wing Tory MEP who continually misunderstands things, gets his facts wrong and continually blusters and insists he’s right regardless? So, our protagonist creates the account, and finds the perfect picture to illustrate it in an illustrated dictionary’s image for ‘harrumph’. The account – called Roger Helmer MEP – begins to pick up an appreciative audience

Soon, though, our protagonist discovers that someone, or something, else is posting to the Twitter account and it’s even more in character than he’s ever managed. Curiously, he also starts to notice references to things that Roger has supposedly done in the news, and gradually he begins to realise that not only has his parody Twitter account developed sentience, it has begun to manifest itself into the real world. Soon, a person claiming to be the real Roger is giving speeches in the European Parliament and having an impact in politics, culminating in him breaking free of his creator by defecting from the Tories to UKIP (which, the film implies, may be yet another parody that’s gone too far). Now completely free of his creator’s control, can anything stop Roger Helmer?

The Cast:
Roger Helmer: A CGIed version of Geoffrey Palmer from Fairly Secret Army
Roger’s creator: Craig Roberts
Nigel Farage: Chris Morris

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The Man In The High Castle gets a full series

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Some good news to report: Amazon TV’s pilot of The Man In The High Castle has been commissioned for a full series. It’s rather unsurprising news, as reviews for the pilot were almost universally positive, but still good to hear.

I reviewed the pilot when it was broadcast and look forward to seeing the series. No announcement yet on when it will be broadcast, but I’m hoping to see it appear before the end of the year.

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Not Watching This Weekend: Find Me A Writer!

"You might already know that these are books. But what you might not know is that the words inside them are made up by people."

“You might already know that these are books. But what you might not know is that the words inside them are made up by people.”

The Pitch: There’s been a lot of complaint that TV mainstream doesn’t have much, if any, programming about books (rather than just being based on them). This show aims to change that by finding Britain’s Next Top Writer in a primetime show. Having made one giant leap of originality by doing a show about books in primetime, the rest of the show will be a complete ripoff of other talent formats. Thus, one round will feature wannabe writers reading a small sample of their work to celebrity writer judges, who’ll be sitting in the chairs from The Voice that have been badly modified to look ‘writerly’. Writers will be expected to jump across genre, style and form at a moment’s notice. (An amateur playwright protesting they know nothing about novel structure being berated by an angry Salman Rushdie will become a YouTube favourite) The life of a writer will be presented as effortless luxury, casually dispensing bon mots at cocktail parties between dashing out a newspaper column and being showered in money by benevolent publisher.

The climax will come in a live final at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff where a book-wielding audience of thousands will watch as the four finalist writers discover that the hours they’ve spent sweating over their work, carrying out every edit and demeaning video diary task ordered by the producers, was utterly wasted as the executives have discovered no one really likes reading books, so they’ll be engaging in It’s A Knockout style contests with a vaguely books-that-have-become-well-known-movies theme. The winner will discover that there book was already published for free as a sample on Amazon that morning and they’ve made £2.35 from the millions of downloads.

Initially planned judges/mentors by the producers: JK Rowling, that one who wrote that thing that we were all reading last year in Tuscany, what was it, look, just get me JK Rowling. What do you mean, she doesn’t want to do it?
Actual judges: A generally confused looking Salman Rushdie, three other authors who could be made to look vaguely presentable on camera and are happy to appear on The One Show and regional radio programmes on an almost daily basis to plug this.
Likelihood of actually boosting book sales across the nation: Low

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